tv [untitled] June 27, 2012 9:30pm-10:00pm EDT
for example, the follow on european satellite may no longer be supported with noaa funded sensors due to constrained budgets. given these concerns, we recommend that noaa establish mitigation plans for pending satellite gaps for all three orbits. noaa plans to issue a report by august to address this recommendation. in summary, noaa and nasa continue to make progress on jpss. however, three areas deserve congressional oversight. first, how noaa and nasa operate within the 12.9 cap, how the ride share arrangement proceeds with certain sensors since significant cost savings is associated with this approach. and third, how the satellite constellation of all three orbits will be effectively managed to ensure critical weather and climate data. next, i would like to turn to the goes-r program, proceeding toward an october 14th lunch date for its first satellite. what i would like to do is
highlight the cost profile, including the use of management reserves and observations on the program's schedule and launch dates. before i get into the specifics, i would like to clarify the scope of the goes-r program. originally it was four satellite program in 2006. it was to cost about $11 billion. so the program eliminated a key sensor and dropped two satellites, among other things, to keep the costs around $7.7 billion. so for about five years we had a fairly stable program. two satellites at $7.7 billion. as part of the fiscal year 2012 budget request, noaa added the two satellites back and increased the life cycle cost to $10.9 billion. so we're back to where we were in 2006. four satellites costing about $11 billion. starting with progress, the program has completed preliminary design reviews for the flight and ground segments and for the program overall. the program is to have its critical design review in august, meaning that all designs are complete, and that the program overall is ready for
full-scale development. regarding costs, the program continues to operate within the $7.7 billion life cycle costs for the first two satellites. this is the case despite the fact that in our report, we highlight cost increases associated with sensors, the spacecraft, and the ground components over the last two years that tally about $750 million. most notably, the advanced baseline image grew $148 million and the ground segment grew nearly $300 million. despite this cost growth, the program has been able to operate within the 7.billion overall estimate by using management reserves. initially the bucket tallied $1.7 billion. it is now down to about $1.2 billion. a few points here on management reserves. 30% have recently been used and significant development remains. two-thirds of the development for the spacecraft and the ground segment remains. in addition, during the course of our review, we found that the
transparency associated with the use of and the remaining balance of the reserves was not where it needed to be, and we made associated recommendations to address that. turning to schedule and launch dates. first, some of the key design reviews were late. we also performed a detailed review of the spacecraft ground segment and two sensors. our reviexposed questions about the october 2015 launch date. in addition, noaa risk logs identify schedule risk associated with the key sensor and also with the flight and ground segments. and finally, noaa's own assessment claims there is only a 48% confidence level that the program will meet its october 15 launch date. we made recommendations to address these concerns. in summary, the goes-r program has been able to operate within the cost estimate of $7.7 billion in the current schedule by effectively using cost and schedule reserves. more transparency is needed on
the use of the reserves. in addition, questions about the reliability of the program schedule and their own assessment show that the october 2015 launch date could slip. this concludes my statement. i'll be pleased to respond to questions. >> thank you, mr. powner. i thank the whole panel for your testimony. reminding members the committee rules limit questions to five minutes each. ordinarily the chair would open the first round of questions, but i'm going to defer to full committee chair mr. hall to begin the first round of questions. mr. hall, you're recognized for five minutes. >> mr. chairman, thank you. i know the senate proposed i think the senate science commerce proposed some support language to transfer funding for weather satellite acquisition from noaa to nasa. and i'm as bad as mr. miller
about not knowing about what a satellite might cost. i remember one time when i left the texas judge's seat in my little hometown to go to austin to take on the job as the state senator. our kids had to change schools. and my wife and i both assured them we would help them with their school work. the first week they studied how much was the national debt. and it got my little kid in trouble because he gave them the answer i gave him, a hell of a lot. he said that wasn't what the teacher was looking for. but maybe mr. miller and i might know a satellite costs a hell of a lot. but the senate proposed to transfer the weather satellite from noaa to nasa. i guess my question is this going to result in cost savings? if i ask mr. sullivan that, she might have one answer and mr. watkins might have another, and i might have another. and you don't have to answer that now, but in a minute, will this result in any efficiencies
or will it streamline management? will it increase the likelihood of the program's success by meeting mission requirements on schedule and within budget? would you like to answer that, ms. sullivan? you have an opinion on that probably. >> the administration is taking the senate's proposal very seriously, mr. hall, and is analyzing facts in all those areas in points that the senate highlighted in their proposal. we don't have an official position from the administration yet so i can't give you details of those considerations. we share the senate's concerns about growth in the program costs and the consequences that this has had on other elements of noaa's budget, so we certainly appreciate where they are coming from on this and are working very diligently to look at the possible impacts, assess the places there will be savings and look at the things we hold as priorities, mission assurance, management stability and effectiveness and maximum continuity of data. >> that's the sound of a good soldier.
what's your real opinion? if you want to give it, if you don't, i understand. >> well, i have highlighted the areas where i would focus my analysis on, and i'm a scientist. so i go with the analysis of what we think impacts in those areas might be. and we're sharing those with the appropriators and with the administration. >> mr. watkins? >> yes, sir. we have been working with the administration, again, to assess the senate's proposal. at this point in time, that continues to go on. again, we, too, would want to make sure that we are able to maintain overall schedules and the concerns of getting these critical space assets in space as soon as possible. >> okay. i guess -- your answer is not a
no and it's not yes. i guess can we expect the administration to take any position on this, on a change like this? and if so, when would it happen? >> sir, i don't know the answer to that question. it's my understanding that the administration is taking this under advisement and that process is ongoing. >> once again, i gave an illustration of my own life. i went before a big company to borrow a lot of money one time and they said, mr. hall, we'll listen to your ignorant proposal with an open mind. that's kind of what i'm getting here. you must have an opinion, both of you, on that. you work for noaa. you work for nasa. you're high up there. the proposed transfer is not a trivial thing, and i just have about 40 more seconds. i guess, my question is why hasn't the administration -- why have they been silent and can we
expect them to take a position? the proposal is not trivial. the satellite program represents a significant portion of noaa's overall budget. let's also not forget that nasa also has its hands full already with its own acquisition problems as the gao listed on its high-risk series. any decision to alter the program in such a dramatic fashion should be fully reviewed by the authorizing committee. while i share the senate's frustrations in these programs, i hope that this decision is not make in the back room. as always, i'm committed to working with the administration of some as much as i possibly can and the senate and my house colleagues to ensure that our nation maintains its critical weather forecasting capabilities. it's very important. my time is up and i yield back. >> thank you, chairman hall. i now recognize ranking member mr. tonko from new york for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chair. the odds are extremely high that there will be a gap in data
between the end of npp's productive life and the time that jpss-1 can be launched and data brought online. in fact, the npp may not even last the projected five years for which we are looking. as a result, we need a clear plan for how to cope with the data gap, so to speak. a gap that may start sooner rather than later. dr. sullivan, what is noaa's plan for filling that gap and who have you assigned to manage the effort to identify other data sources and ensure that the data we can get will work seamlessly in our weather prediction models? >> thank you, mr. tonko, for that question. our mission to deliver accurate and life and property-protecting forecasts is one that we take extremely seriously. so i can assure you that no one is more concerned about and working harder on this gap than my colleagues and i at noaa do. you have asked the single most common question we receive from
congress, from our weather enterprise stakeholders. i ask myself and if i had a silver bullet answer to magically fix it, i assure you i would give it to you. there's no easy direct substitute on orbit, just go get it for the data for the precision and the accuracy and compatibility that jpss is designed to provide. what we are doing, and we are working very hard at this, we have been renewing and reconfirming written and firm commitments with international partners for mutual aid. these are arrangements akin to utility companies, mutual arrangements in times of a storm. we have used such arrangements in the past in instances where we had temporary outages of a goes satellite back in march of 2010, i believe, it was and years prior when other nations have had more extended gaps in their ye owe geostationary coverage.
so we're working and ensuring they are in place. we have good understanding of the technical characteristics of many of those data streams. many of them we use as complimentary data to improve the forecasts off of our core data streams today. we have begun the efforts with our modelling centers and our weather service to look at what technical changes would be needed if we did need to and wish to take data streams in that we don't commonly. i would cite one there. the defense department satellite has a microwave imager/sounder, the data from which we don't commonly use. it has noise characteristics and bias that are not suitable for our normal weather models. we have worked hard over the last year to whittle those down and understand how we could accommodate those. that's shortened the time frame, the runway it would take to incorporate those data. we will continue such efforts. the gao rightfully we believe points out that these plans should be better documented. that's a fair comment. we will deliver on that. they rightly point out that it's not enough just to list out a
roster of things one might do. we need to take the positive steps, as your question is suggesting, to be sure that we're technically ready as well and we're beginning on that and we'll document it appropriately. >> who is leading that? who is taking that effort up? >> our international partnership work in the overall effort for gap assessment is being lead by our associate administrator for nesda, mary quisa, and we have, as i alluded to, colleagues in both our algorithm shops and the national weather service is engaged as well. i assure you i keep a close eye on it. >> and mr. powner, do you have any comment or views on this matter? >> clearly, we'd like to see those plans documented. a couple thoughts here though. one is, the one thing that noaa and nasa do control is keeping jpss launch date where it currently is, you need to keep that on track. because if that slips more, the gap becomes even greater. so that's one thing you need to really focus on keenly. the other thing is with npp over the next year as you look at calibration validation
activities, there might be a greater indication on how long npp will last. so the key is to try to get npp to last as long as you can and that picture should become clearer when you go through calibration and validation. you really need to keep that first jpss-1 on track. >> i'm sorry? >> mr. tonko, i would just add we completely agree with that. i thought your question was directed more towards alternative data streams. i endorse my colleague's comments. >> okay, thank you. mr. powner, you have seen a lot of programs come and go. do you have a view on the current jpss program manager and team that you would be willing to share? >> yeah, i think there's strong program management there. we have seen many program managers over the years testifying before this committee, and clearly when you look at where the program is now, it's much better positioned than where it's been in the past. and when you look at the aggressive mitigation of risk, one of the key things to highlight the $1.7 billion funding gap to get down to the
cap on the program is being aggressively worked by the program. those plans make sense right now. obviously, we need to see more details, but i think the aggressive management of risk has been where we want it. >> thank you. thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. tonko. now i recognize my colleague from maryland, dr. harris. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. as i indicated in my opening statement, the status quo with respect to whether satellite prams may simply not be a sustainable option. and a question we should be asking is to what alternative options we have. to that i'd like to enter into the record a piece by the university of washington atmospheric sciencist cliff mass entitled "weather x." >> without objection. >> thank you very much. dr. mass makes the argument that noaa should consider pursuing a model similar to that which nasa pursued with spacex. mass argues that the weather data necessary for forecasts could be provided by a private
company that could build, launch and maintain the satellites. dr. sullivan, what's is noaa's philosophy toward the type of alternative private model that dr. mass has suggested? >> well, i would say -- i have not read the blog post in detail, dr. harris, so i can't comment on the particulars that are cited there. in general, my posture would be that innovative ideas deserve careful exploration. my administrator testified before another committee in this chamber last week about the desirability and the importance of the weather service, as indeed all of noaa, being resilient and adaptable for changes that are coming ahead and changes in our customer base in the demands for products and services, the changes of our challenges of our fiscal times. so those are important attributes for any organization to have. >> sure. i understand there are sector models of this type currently being proposed to noaa. at a hearing earlier this year, we heard from a company proposing to launch a sounder
that would provide dramatically-improved severe storm forecasting capability and with that in mind, can you be specific about how noaa is evaluating these proposals? i mean, who is in charge of these evaluations and how specifically they would go forward if they could? >> well, i think there are two different characteristics there. the proposal that i understand was brought to us with respect to that hyper speck -- speck traditional instrument was that we procure the instrument or the data from it as a substitute for the current data. our environmental satellite service organization in concert with the national weather service evaluate those proposals to determine the suitability of data and the judged reliability and feasibility of the proposal in terms of technical maturity and cost reliability in the estimates. all satellites and all instruments are very easy in power point. most are much harder in actuality, so we look for some evidence that we've got a viable path. to my mind, the spacex-type model is an altogether different thing. if the proposal is that a third party actually set their standards, set their targets and
decide to go do something and open a new market, which is in a nutshell my understanding of the spacex proposal, and as i think we have seen nasa do, one applies a very different posture to a proposal like that. we have not had such a one come before us at noaa. i think we would take a similar kind of posture. weather forecasting to protect the lives and livelihoods of americans is not the same commodity as tickets to ride. so the details might well turn out differently. >> okay. but there is some method. is there someone actively pursuing the -- or investigating this weatherx proposal? i mean, is there any discussion at noaa at all about the potential for commercialization as nasa has done with spacex? >> i am not aware -- >> not as an individual effort. you're waiting to be reactive and not proactive about it. >> i wouldn't characterize it that way, dr. harris.
we interrogate and interact with the private sector abundantly. as you know, there's a very vibrant private sector weather enterprise that has privatized the dissemination portion of the enterprise. it used to be, once upon a time, government as well. we engage with the potential providers of launch services and instruments quite frequently. we put an rfq out in 2008 prior to letting instrument contracts for jpss to take extra care abd be sure there were not candidate providers we had overlooked. so i think we are more active than your question suggests. i just don't know if anyone yet has seen the weather-x blog. it had not been brought to my attention until your question. >> it will be in the record, so they can see it. i would hope that someone would be watching something by university scientists being published. even if it's in a blog. at the same prior hearing on noaa weather data, a panel of outside experts recommended that
noaa undertake an observing system simulation experiment in ose, which i would hope you're familiar with the concept. with the concept. which would evaluate different capabilities and options to determine the best mix of systems that noaa should pursue. absent an ose, noaa is basing its weather data planning on subjective opinions. so dr. sullivan, when will noaa finally undertake an ose on tity tate an ossi system. when will noaa undertake the ossi? >> we will look at systems that we use them in the past. we have neither the high performance computing capacity or the man power to devote to a standing large effort to run multiple oscs and we did conduct an osc or more importantly an observing science center, and in
the snowmageddon example that we spoke about at the hearing last year. we do them selectively and they will come into play as we look at the gaap mitigation strategies, and we would love to have the capacity the do more of them, because they are an important and rigorous tool. >> thank you very much. >> the chairperson ee's time ha expired. >> thank you very much. we have had many subcommittees on these programs, but particularly the jpss promp gra and its predecessor program the late unlamented npos program, and the hearings seem to have a familiar pattern the them, and we have someone from noaa or nasa or somebody saying that the programs have been a big problem and messed up, but we are fixing it now. things are on track now. and then we have had mr. pouner saying, no, no, they are messing
up. he has always been right. but, i have heard mr. pouner in your testimony today, i have heard terms that i have never heard come from your mouth, good progress, solid development, and do you think that particularly the jpss is on track and what are the remaining issues and risks? what else can go wrong in the past that is true that everything that could go wrong has. but do you think that what you do think could still go wrong and how much under control is that? >> well, clearly, it's a much better picture than we have testified on in the past. ranking member miller. the couple of challenges that we see with jpss is operating within the $12.9 billion cap, because the program when you reconciled the cost estimates, it was somewhere around $14.6. so operating within that cap, there is still that $1.7 billion delta. there a plan to address that,
but i think it is a challenge going forward. in addition, associated with addressing that $1.7 billion gap, this arrangement where you have a ride share arrangement with certain sensors and you are flying them outside of the jpss program, there are big cost savings associated with that and i think it is important to keep an eye on that, because that is where you are likely going to get the savings as the way see the current plan. >> okay. dr. sullivan, that may have sounded mildly critical, but if you had been here before, you know that is lavish praise. how confident are you in that $12.9 billion figure for life cycle cost analysis? what are the risks of that not being the right number of something going wrong? >> mr. miller, i don't buy satellites everyday either, but
i have been around the space systems a good bit and that sounded right on the mark. these are complex programs. they always need carefully watched. i never rested easy until the wheels stopped on the runway after a mission, and i don't intend to rest easy until we have the systems in orbit now as well. so i think that mr. pouner has characterized things quite fairly and properly. we will stay right on the bubble. having said that, i am confident that we have a solid figure in the $12.9 billion number, and the elements of work that were done to move from the $14.6 down to the $12.9 were solidly done, and they capitalized on experience with npp as mentioned earlier in the questioning, and they took some conservative estimates that were based on unknowns and unproven capabilities and performance and modified them downwards and they dove into the remaining elements
of heritage and ill fated legacy and the lamented end post, and scrubbed those back with respect to the ground system as mr. pouner has noted and moved the ground system to a different set of architectures that are less proprietary and less off of the shelf and modern protocols and a lot of substantive technical things were done to stack up that new estimate. i have strong confidence in it, and also very high and continued scrutiny. >> mr. watkins, your testimony was also very optimistic about the go czar program, and it does seem like it is on track, but it is the instruments that still have a ways to go. in developing them in the integrating them and we know that has frequently been a, a stage at which things can go wrong. what confidence do you have that the instruments included like
the lightning mapper, and i have never bought a lightning mapper, either, but will succeed and be on time and on budget? >> one of the things that is critical is that noaa and nasa got started very early on with the instrument developments, and instruments when you look across satellite programs are usually the place where you begin to run into problems and so, i think that the fact that the sort of the instrument developments are started very early and the fact that they have developed instrument prototypes and the instruments are on the path to being completed on time, when you mentioned the lightning mapper, that is going to be the first time that we have actually going the fly that instrument, and it, too, is progressing along very well. so we are confident in the approach that was taken with the instrument development, and the way
ways in which they are currently being managed. >> my time has expired, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. i now recognize the gentleman from california, mr. errrorbalk >> mr. sullivan and others as well, but how much money has just evaporated from the nempost program, and we have some things left from the debacle that are worth something, but how much can you say is an actual total loss of value for the american taxpayer? >> do you want me to? >> yes. >> so, where we are today tied to the end post program approximately $4.3 billion has been spent to date. now, out of the resources we had the development of instruments that are ultimately going to be
flying on jpss-i, and instrument tas are flying on the suni-mmp and the fact that we had developed a ground system that is being utilized to dday in orr to operate the suni-mmp mission, and instrument development across the board again for jpss-i. so a lot of the cost that have been sfoent date are actually being utilized as part of the overall jpss-i program. >> that is the basis of the program. how much have we lost? how much, and i mean, it is no loss at all? it is not really a debacle. you know, it is an ideal program? we have been told just the opposite. we are representing at least hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions of dollars of actual evaporation of wealth. >> sir, we would have to take that under advisement and get
back to you. >> i would like that. because you recognized and people are pointing out while evaluating the program of the $4 billion, it is not all gone. >> no. >> and there is a large chunk of it which we will use eventually, however does that not necessarily make up for the cost overrun concept here where it started at such a low level and ended up es escalating over double was as it stands now when it could go up more. just a little bit about this senate recommendation that chairman hall brought up and in terms of procurement of weather satellites from going from noaa to nasa and rather than being a joint system that created so much havoc with nempos.